Learning From Your Rejects

by Josh Anon

I like to edit quickly. Heck, a few weeks ago, I posted tips for editing quickly. It even used to bug me that in Aperture, it always took an extra step to move a rejected image from my library to the trash. That quickly stopped bugging me the first time I mis-rated an image and had to un-reject it :) However, I recently realized that my rejected smart album is a great way to improve my photography.

Kiter on a foil board

This past weekend, I was editing some shots from a kiteboarding race. I'd been shooting from a jet ski in choppy waters, which is quite hard (have I mentioned how much I love the straighten tool?)! Out of about two hundred shots, I kept about fifty. As I went to delete the rejects, something made me stop for a second. It hit me that the rejected album had a lot of information for me about what I did wrong, conveniently located in one album, and learning from our mistakes is a very useful way to improve.

Instead of deleting my images right away, I flipped on the viewer by pressing "v" and started looking through them. Quickly, I saw that there were two main reasons I was rejecting images, composition and focus. From experience, I've (finally) reached the point where exposure isn't much of an issue, especially because of how flexible RAW files are (and how good Aperture's shadow/highlight tool is).

When I looked at the images with focus problems, I realized that the main issue was in shots where the riders were further away. There, my camera's AF system would lock onto the hills behind the riders instead of the riders (I was shooting with an original Canon 1Ds, and its ring of fire isn't as reliable as on the 1D Mark II. Quick side note: to shoot with the ring of fire, first put your subject under the central AF point and then press the shutter half way. That will cause the AF system to start tracking the object). The next time I'm out shooting, I plan on using my focus points more when the riders are further away, and I'll make sure to check that they're aligned with the riders. Even though I was shooting at a fairly small aperture, I just didn't have enough depth of field to get both the hills and riders, and better focusing would mean fewer rejects.

For the images with composition problems, I'm not sure there's much I can do aside from just trying to adapt to the rocking jet ski. In the shots where I was able to brace myself against some part of the jet ski, the only shots I deleted were the head and tail shots from a burst. But if I was being lazy and not bracing myself, I'd often end up cutting off part of the kite or having the rider at a weird position in the frame, a position that didn't even look good after cropping.

Once I finished thinking about my rejects, I did happily delete them, and there's no evidence that I ever took an out of focus shot this weekend. However, I'm glad that I took a second to flip through my rejects, and I find it great that Aperture lets me flip through them like any other album. Even if you don't share your own rejects with anyone else, do try to check them out once in a while--it can be a really great way to improve your photography.



2007-06-23 22:09:55
I also found it's handy to use default "Rejected" smart folder in Library. Great way to review all rejected pictures from any project and to tidy up your library.